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Us 15, Usda 7, Africa 5, Vilsack 5, U.s. 4, China 4, U.n. 3, Daschle 3, George Mcgovern 2, United States 2, John 2, Asia 2, California 2, Washington 2, America 2, Dwight Eisenhower 1, Dupont 1, Undernutrition 1, Mr. Tom 1, Mcgovern 1,
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  CSPAN    Capitol Hill Hearings    News/Business.  

    February 22, 2013
    6:00 - 7:00am EST  

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beforehand, tilling an acre took a full 24 hours. -- took a grown man a full 24 hours. afterward, as little as five. every pile of soil upturned up and it an assumption of what the land could produce. this kind of game changing innovation has enabled us to leap ahead and increase harvest and feed the whole world. sometimes these innovations come from the most advanced science. other times they are simple steps and ideas that come from looking at and listening closely to the problem.
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all of them can break down barriers to food security. it can allow us to allow new paths of progress. -- plow entirely new pass to progress. we need those new pathways forward. take a look at a few recent headlines. "drought and mississippi impacts everything from livestock to deer." "food shortages could force the world into vegetarians." "patent endings raises new biotech issues." "global crop production shows signs of stagnant." "could climate change be al qaeda's best friend in africa?" i could go on. when i think of the factors
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that make up the perfect storm, i'm reminded of what mark twain reportedly observed. by land, they're not making it anymore. i wish twain was right. the truth is, global warming is making less. we need to do more land that we still have. every year 7 billion of us on earth use the equivalent of a planet and a half of resources. yet 870 million people worldwide still today go to bed hungry. by the year 2050, there will be
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over 2 billion more mouths to feed, many in the developing world. that is not sustainable. to keep up with the rising demand, we have to increase global food production 70% by this century. as assistant secretary of state josé fernandez says, that is producing as much food in the next 50 years as we produce in the last 1000. think about that for a minute. between now and the time my grandkids are old enough to attend usda conferences on their own, we will have had to grown as much food as we did as the dawn of recorded history.
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and we will have to do it without more land. compounding the problem is effects of the changing climate. anyone who works close to the land can plainly see -- what is up with the weather? -- last but timber the cover of national geographic ask the question "what's up with the weather? that is a fair question. last year was the hottest on record in the u.s. with massive summer droughts. leading secretary vilsack to declare more than half of u.s. counties primary nash trip -- a natural disaster areas. we witnessed extreme flooding throughout asia and devastating droughts in the horn of africa. in europe, and characteristic deep freezes have given way to destructive fires. u.n.food organizations are warning of a huge locusts in egypt. talk about disasters of biblical proportions.
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you cannot make this stuff up. as the secretary has shared with us on many occasions, these natural disasters are leading to higher and higher profit insurance payout at a time the federal government is facing a brutal fiscal crunch. and while some folks may believe warmer temperatures and more co2 may actually benefit agriculture, it does not look that way in the long run. crop yields are down 2% to 3% globally and for everyone degree of celsius increase of average temperature, yields decrease by an average of 5%. climate change is projected to degrade it up to one-fifth of the arable land in the developing world. meanwhile, but i believe is a regrettable oversight, we are
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not investing enough to improve agriculture productivity. right when a growing population and a warming climate requires to do more with less. here at home, as the secretary just said so powerfully, shortsighted fiscal policies are leading us to slash funding for agriculture research and land grant universities. and we are spending even less on agricultural r&d in low- income countries. as of 2008, $3.5 billion our agricultural investments in the developing world were less than half of what we did 30 years ago. less than half. while there is evidence of increasing investment in agriculture sector, especially from the private sector, there remains a $79 billion difference
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annually between what we invest in low and middle income countries and what they need to feed their people. this level of investment will not cut it in places like africa, where agricultural r&d -- below recommended levels. even while the population is expected to triple by the end of the century. as i have said, it is a perfect storm of pitfalls and the challenges. as you all look closely at your programs, you will see my name listed as thomas dschle and not thomas malthus, and i am not here to preach doom and gloom. i am something of an optimist. i think somebody who serves three decades in political life and live to tell about it has to be an optimist. to my mind, mothering the perfect storm is possible if
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only we had the wisdom and the willpower to rethink our approach. what do i mean by that? i know a lot of you are very .amiliar with the 4 h's of 4h these are what i and the number of other folks consider the 4 d's of global involvement, global engagement. defense, diplomacy, democracy, development. and food security is essential to each and every one of those four d's. consider the first of these factors, which is the state of our national defense. our national security is to enlarge extent contingent on our food security. hunger and poverty trigger
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political and economic instability and ultimately threaten global security around the globe today. if not before, this was made clear in 2007 and in 2008. as a changing climate contributed to rising food prices which led to riots around the world, food and water scarcity are quickly -- quickly becoming a leading cause of global instability. ag use a 70% of the globe's water. i think we can all agree that feeding people is a great way to use those resources, coming together to resolve our water and food scarcity will be central to a strong national defense. chad is not just food and water security. agriculture's overall goal in our national defense is multifaceted, playing a critical
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role in our energy security as well. just last week, for instance, secretary vilsack publicly highlighted the importance of biofuels in strengthening our energy independence. and the investments usda made in advance biofuels. as you all know, former secretary of defense leon panetta was a vocal advocate for diversifying our military's energy resources. from biofuel drones to a green fleet, i expect similar policies to continue when my former colleague chuck hagel is confirmed, hopefully as early as next week. for all these reasons, i have long been a supporter of renewable fuels, and i encourage the further development of an industry that is important both to our national security as well as to our farm economy. whether we are talking food or
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water or energy security, let me put it this way -- in the future, more crops in the field can mean fewer soldiers in the field. at the same time, as important as our defense capabilities are, we also need to rebalance toward the other three d's. the u.s. today spends more on defense than on diplomacy, democracy, and development all put together. meanwhile, in the past year china has more than doubled its investment in developing new agricultural technologies. those are the kinds of farsighted policies that are enabling china to emerge as a world power and which we, frankly, need to get back to. as we shift our focus and our resources toward smarter, more constructive forms of international interaction, it is
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critical that food security remain at the center of shaping this secure world. when it comes to diplomacy, that means working stronger public- private and government-to government relationships, like u.s. ais promising initiatives, initiatives like feed the future being country that a lead and focus on global solutions to enable countries to take ownership of their own development. it also means ensuring that half a billion of small farmers can participate meaningfully and democratically in governing their own countries. small holders feed an estimated 80% of the population of asia and in sub-saharan africa, but yet these farmers often have no voice in its future. more specifically, it means empowering women who represent
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43% -- 43% of small holders and are the majority of farmers now in over 30 countries. land rights and ownership, for example, can help women realize their potential, which in turn benefits families, communities, and these countries themselves. lastly, building a secure and interconnected global will take a deep commitment to that final d, development. which has only recently begun to receive the attention it deserves. this means traditional country and governmental commitments, but it also means private-sector developments that stimulates entrepreneurship and empowers individuals. there is a direct connection between the countries economic circumstances and its success in advancing the goals of the first three d's. indeed, agriculture and development is perhaps the most
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critical first step toward a national economic development program. but moving from substance to surplus enables farmers to feed their families and communities, connecting to emerging markets, and proving their livelihoods and ultimately strengthening these local economies. growing economies lead to more private sector investment, which only further allows for economic growth and development to which we all aspire. those rising economies abroad translate to expand markets for american exports and increase production for american farms. because of this issue is so fundamental to the well-being of the world, i would like to spend my remaining time talking about what it will take to achieve these development advances and share the benefits. here is how i view the challenges and opportunities of
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global development today. recently, i came across a chart that i think brilliantly illustrates the global imperatives to promote agriculture development and the difficulties we face a consists of two side-by-side pie charts, which is appropriate because the graphic is about food. one pie chart shows the distribution of arable land around the world and the other shows the distribution of the world's population. many of the corresponding pie wedges are widely wildly disproportionate. east asian and pacific, for instance, contain 14% of the world's arable land must -- 41% of the globe's population. for oecd countries, that ratio is reversed. the rations are similarly on equal when it comes to the distribution of calories. woodridge -- with rich nations
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experiencing over nutrition and poor ones, undernutrition. connecting people to food will only become more difficult as roughly 70% of the global population migrate to cities by 2015. further away from the food -- 2050. it further away from the food that is grown. here is another illustration. one that sticks out from all the statistics i've thrown at you so far. in fact, if there is one thing that i hope you will remember from my remarks this morning, it will be this. and i still -- it is breathtaking just to say this. a full 30%-50% of the food produced in the world rocks or goes on in. -- uneaten. that to me is one of the most amazing statistic i will cover articulate.
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up to half of our total global output. except while waste my big problem in the developed world, the problem in the developing countries is getting the goods to market, as we all know. roughly 85% of the food produced never cross the international borders. given the unequal distribution of people in land as i just meant dimension, it is a major obstacle today. what it comes down to is we need to produce more, higher-quality, more nutritious food. and we need to become better at moving a. it and we need to do a lot more of it sustainably. and the solution to those problems, brought a speaking, it is a word that i think all four of us mentioned in various ways as we have spoken this morning. that single word is innovation.
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indeed, through science based technologies, we can innovate to handle severe weather conditions, diminishing resources, post harvest loss, nutritionally insufficient to crops, the benefits of science and innovation and food and agriculture in its many forms are seen each and every single day. we can connect rural farmers to extension workers and best practices the use of mobile could knowledge. we can enhance the attrition of content across the increase solutions that reduced fat, salt and sugar content. a water management practices enable farmers to more efficiently irrigate crops and reduced water wastage. thanks to the great work of firms like -- in my native state of south dakota, farmers are
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using precision solutions such as gps technology to increase yields while using actually fewer inputs. but innovation is not just about science. sometimes, innovation is about creative collaboration a partnership that provides a new perspectives to address complex challenges. the global food security index created with the support of the pot -- dupont, it measures the court indicated that strives to security, affordability, availability, quality and safety across 105 countries. the index can tell us why some countries are more prone to food and nutrition and security than others. and labeling targeted investment and country-specific solutions. innovation also comes in very simple forms that result from
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simply new perspectives. melinda gates recently joked during an npr interview that you may have heard, about 91 for staff had. to use sweaty socks as an anti- malaria mosquito repellent. everyone dismissed the idea, but it turned out to be a very good one. and a similar mess it is now being used. -- a similar method is now being used. feeding and unequal world with a growing population is shrinking resources will require new ideas, both big and small. agricultural advances of all kinds applied in new ways with new partners. we will need to pay as much attention to innovation for photosynthesis as we do for innovation info sharing. if we want the u.s. to be the hub of this innovation, though, we will need to do much more to
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support agricultural development. for starters, we will need serious sustain public-private investment in research in new technologies. despite wasting all that food, for instance, only 5% of agriculture research today goes to studying post harvest loss prevention. we can't just invest in r&d and hope the problems will miraculously solve themselves. as i see it, there are three ways we can do a better job fertilizing the field, so to speak. those three legs supporting the tripod of innovation our collaboration, education, and regulation. let's start of a collaboration. i called its calledilos" op -- it is called "silos are for grain." we must reject the siloed
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stakeholders and build solid, and during partnerships for productivity. let's leave the silos for grain. it means establishing and strengthening relationships with the foundations and family farm activists. agribusiness and academia. it actually means requiring we all come together as actors at all levels, from small older farmers literally down in the weeds to this u.n. general assembly. this cannot be a top-down exercise, either. it means understanding the end users of we incorporate local cultures and traditions into our efforts rather than working against them. if a local tribe thinks a nutritionally enhanced to potato taste strange, they simply will not eat it, and our efforts will be wasted. instead, we should adopt a strategy of people like linda
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gale who leads care's efforts. she tells a great story some of you may have heard, about teaching chicken farmers and flood prone areas to become but farmers. she says she doesn't for one simple reason -- ducks swim. together, these cross-cultural public-private partnerships that invest in better seeds, storage, formed to market breadth -- roads, bridges, and railways. they can invent new financing models for family farmers and sign mutually beneficial trade agreements to expand agricultural markets. future programe is one example. so is the alliance of green revolution and africa chaired by the former u.n. secretary general kofi annan, supported by the likes of the rockefellers and the gates foundation. a dynamic african led
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partnership to end hunger and poverty while safeguarding the environment. in one uganda village, for instance, a dealer named and that sold a local farmer seeds and supplied -- increases crop yield 150%, to 0.5 tons per acre. another promising example is the abs project. it brought together african government donors, private sector, research institutions, universities, and other african organizations. it is a multimillion-dollar effort to bio-fortified sorgum with vitamin a, i am, and zinc to address high rates of vitamin a deficiency across the continent. the fortification of this crop is significant because sorgum,
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as most of you know, the second most important cereal in africa but it had little nutritional value. it is also uniquely suited to adapt africa's climate, was standing both drought and water logging. as a consequence, bio-fortified sorgum has the potential to improve the diets of 500 million people. in other for the country to rely on it as a dietary staple. from university classrooms, to foreign fields and everything in between, these are the kinds of globally connected locally grown the collaborations that we will need to succeed in the coming century. and the scaling of these efforts requires significant commitment, investment and resources, in the global community. if we want to unleash our innovative spirit, though, it will take more than collaboration.
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it will take significant sustained educational efforts. i do not mean stem education and the like, all the technical training is crucial and agricultural investment. instead, i am talking about engaging the skeptics and vocally advocating sound science as a solution to our food security challenge. we need to bridge the gap between the people who produce food and the folks who consume it. there is an unfortunate global by today between the rural world and the rest of the world. we have seen it in our own lives and works. food producers are increasingly disconnected from consumers. and this country the secretary speaks often and eloquently about the need to bring these the sides closer together, and he is absolutely right. american agricultural activity is through the roof, as the farmers i represent that have always brag. they tell me about their yield per acre, how it is 10 times
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what it is in africa. how because of technology, they are able to do things with their crops that their grandparents never even dreamed of doing. it is incredible to see. but one of the few drawbacks of our extreme productivity is that 1% of the american population feeds the other 99%. so, the consumer is now far separated from the producer. he or she does not understand what it takes to get the product safe and fresh to the supermarket today. a few years back, some of you may remember this, a two-story -- lays potato chips reworked their packaging to include an image of a potato being sliced into potato chips. they did that because the conducted a survey in which one- third of the respondents said lays potato chips were not made from potatoes. talk about not knowing where your food comes from. not to mention the public has
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become increasingly wary of our food supply. many fear the role of science and food, even when there is evidence of all the benefits that i just attended to describe. the golden rice story represents a good example. developed over a decade ago, gold and rice, a bio-45 crop, a genetically modified to include in beta carotene which of the body converts to vitamin a has yet to reach the marketplace. it acceptance of golden rice remains uncertain, even despite published research that suggests that golden rice has the potential to help millions, if not tens of millions of children who suffer from vitamin a deficiency. for rice is a staple food crop. given how much we need to improve our productivity to avoid a global food catastrophe as well as to address global issues of under and over nutrition, we simply don't have
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the luxury of ruling out any solutions that are safe, nutritious, and can improve food security. we need to embrace all of agriculture, from the small farms that feed the communities to the large farms that feed the world. as former president and more importantly peanut farmer jimmy carter once said, responsible biotechnology is not our enemy. hunter and starvation are. -- hunger and starvation are. i could not agree more. we also need to educate and inspire our young people to help feed the world by owning these agriculture innovations. we should be better at integrating agriculture into classrooms, whether it is trips to local forms of a math problems dealing with irrigation. we can boost the efforts of groups like global 4h networks to teach our kids to be leaders and feeders of the 21st century. in fact, while many college
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graduates are struggling to find jobs, i recently read that agricultural students these days are not only finding jobs, they are excellent fending off multiple offers. the farmer who will feed the world in 2025 is 13 years old today. when she grows up, to use all the tools at your disposal, to do that will depend on our ability to quiet her concerns, train her well, and inspire her was the significance of the task at hand. finally, what we must -- we must expand our collaboration and education efforts but innovation can only flourish in a smart, sensible streamlined signs based regulatory framework. in short, we have to craft a 21st century system that holds true to our oldest values while unleashing our newest advances. a recent study found agriculture
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and ag bioscience industry is a $125 billion industry, supporting nearly 2.5 million jobs, with much more possible. it has been one of the few bright spots in this global economic downturn. scientists are improving livestock production and livestockscuba rice that can survive heavy flooding. and expect -- in australia the air experience -- experimenting with a week dusted broke in saline soils which would expand our arable land. it is often the case industry is innovating faster than regulatory systems are able to respond. as a result, it could take as long as a decade and up to $250 million to bring crop protection products to market. it can take as long as 20 years and up to $150 million to discover and commercialize biotechnology trade like
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pesticide resistance. we can establish a science based regulatory system, though, one that respects health and environmental concerns and give confidence to consumers and insurers more predictable timelines. when we do, innovation -- we already witnessed we are just the beginning of the innovations that are yet to come. now, another former president and family farmers dwight eisenhower once commented that farming looks mighty easy, when your plow is a pencil and you are 1,000 miles from a cornfield. it is true. it is pretty simple for the speaker to toss out half baked notions, but don't take my recommendations about grain without a grain of salt. however, i have spent a fair bit of time reflecting on these issues. and i believe that if we reorient those four d's, how we
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engage the world, and put food security at the center, and encourage innovation through collaboration, education, and regulation, we are going to be moving in the right direction. but that is entirely up to us. those of us in this room and the millions of our -- farmers and business people and government officials and everyday citizens, the century and a half from now, will our grandchildren's children live in a world where only a few are fed or one where billions have their daily bread. will another long winded speaker be able to point to an incredible discovery developed in a lab this year? what will those seeds never be planted? never unleashed the full power of productivity? i know which future i would like
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to see. and i bet i know what you want, too. last year, a very dear friend of mine, a mentor and champion of food for all, senator george mcgovern passed away. it was just a few weeks ago we learned that pope benedict xvi will be stepping down. i am reminded today of the words of a different pope. pope john 23rd. a long time ago he met george at the vatican. george was heading up the president kennedy's food for peace program, and pope john piece of george mcgovern's hand and looked at him in the eye and said to him -- when you meet your maker, and he asks did you feed the hungry, you can say, yes, i did.
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george mcgovern could say that 1000 times over. so can the millions of men and women and children whose farms and ranches and laboratories feed our families. even when we cannot always realize or acknowledge it. and by continuing to plow ahead, develop agricultural policies and innovative ways, big and small, so, indeed, can all of us. thank you very much. [applause] >> wow. so, we have had three great
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addresses this morning. joe giving us the outlook, secretary vilsack challenging us in terms of human risks we can manage, and senator daschle, just really getting an overwhelmingly moving tribute and challenge to american agriculture to all of us in this room. a lot of fodder for thought. now the floor is yours. our panelists are going to answer some of your questions. i don't know if we have mics in the room? yes? no? they are in the back. so, people can line up and we will have a little bit of time before our coffee break for questions.
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i tell you what -- let's take a question from one of the students in the front. ok. i think mic is coming up. catherine, could you bring it to this woman in the front corner. thank you. go ahead. >> maybe i would just ban. my name is travis. undergrads would student -- undergraduate student. my question is actually for all of you up here. we talked a lot about the issues facing agriculture today.
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[inaudible] trading -- trade barriers, getting food where it needs to go. what in your opinion is the greatest challenge or opportunity? both in size and quality, we are facing today? , who wants to start? good, you will hear better answers as they get a chance to think about the question. i would say increasing productivity. i think senator daschle, as the deputy mentioned, just a great speech on that. i think that is really the challenge. we look a population growth and look at challenges because of things like climate change, resources and other things. it is really a challenge. i think that is where our
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research money needs to go. >> i agree with joe. i think as you just heard me expound for probably too long about what i consider to be the biggest challenge, but we know the challenges that are out there and we know the resources and all of the tremendous collaboratives talent that it is going to take to harness those resources to meet those challenges. there and lies our biggest opportunity. can we take all of this extraordinary talent we have and the resources we have an innovation that is potentially there and direct it toward meeting the extraordinary demographic needs that we are going to be having to meet as we go forward. that to me is by far the biggest part of this. >> i think the biggest challenge is figuring out ways in which what happens in rural parts of this country and around the world can be appreciated and understood, recognize, and
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supported. because in order for us to have increased productivity, we have to have young people want to farm. we have to have young people interested in the research that is important and necessary to figure out how to do more with less, and we have to have political leaders willing to invest the resources to allow us to continue to promote our goods and be able to the resources that the senator indicated. i. the biggest challenge for us is the gap that exists today in this country between those who live in cities and suburbs and those who live and work and raise their families in rural areas. i think we have begun to turn the corner on this. i think there was the beginning. the senator alluded to the ad in the super bowl. there is a beginning to that. i think agriculture is challenged to speak with a single voice about this. far too often, agriculture talks
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to itself. it fights with itself. it conflicts with itself. instead of conveying a positive, proactive message and strategically engaging with folks outside of agriculture so there is a greater acceptance and understanding of the importance of agriculture. i think the combination of our three comments, and i certainly encourage the deputy to engage in this as well. that is the biggest challenge. >> i want to go to the opportunity side. just to make an observation, senator, it was interesting you talk about the 13-year-old who will be the farmer in 2025. you used "she" as you describe the farmer. i am interested in the changing demographics and american agriculture. 30% of the farm operators are women. 19% increase over the previous census. and then we also have widows
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determining what is going to happen to a lot of all working lands in this country, and the forested land. i think that is really an interesting opportunity. it really came into the mind -- my mind when the senate to use that, talking about a 13-year old. and i know my next question is the young woman. >> my name is venus, graduate student at tuskegee university with a focus on nutrition. thank you also much for having -- for being a. appreciate it. on behalf of me in the entire group. my question is actually for senator daschle and mr. tom bills luck. you made a profound statement regarding the regulatory body in the process and how it is very limiting, and regarding the new innovations coming out. to be implemented regarding the policies and the regulation process. what challenges, and what kind
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to teach it plans if any have been discussed at this point? it is very cutting edge, regarding to bridge the gap and shorten and convince the process so the fact we can take the innovations we have in the laboratory and it can be impactful and meaningful and substantial into sustainability and continuation of feeding america? >> fortunately, we have begun the process of trying to shorten the amount of time it takes. one of the opportunities we have seized from the fiscal challenges we face is encouraging folks at usda to look at process improvement. and particularly, we started with biotech regulatory process because when i came into the office, it took over 900 days for us to make a decision about a disk -- petition to deregulate a particular technology. today it is less than 365 days. we have taken roughly 600 days out of the process through process improvement. the second challenge is not
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just our regulatory process but synchronizing it with everyone else's regulatory process. we just announced several months ago an opportunity with china on to begin the process of synchronizing their process with ours. because the way we do it in china, the wait until we completed our process before they even begin the process. at least we agree to a pilot where they begin simultaneously with us, do several preliminary steps unlikely and the process after we and hours. this is a major issue. it reflects the difference of sophistication of regulatory processes. so, you can rest assured we are looking at ways in which we can streamline the process. even if we do, unless we get the international community to increase the process, it becomes, again, time consuming. >> let me just say, i applaud the secretary and his team for
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the remarkable progress they have made in attempting to address the challenges you'll eloquently articulated in your question. i think we have always strive to find a balance between risk adversity and innovation. that is always the judgment. it is an ongoing process. there is no end to that long challenge. i always felt there were three p's -- one of preparation. we've got to anticipate the innovation. to the extent we can -- and be prepared for it. the second is partnership. we have to work in a public- private sector environment where that partnership can actually move the process forward. and the third is pragmatism. i think it is important to be pragmatic as we go forward. the more pragmatic, of the more prepared and the more partnered we are -- the more successful we will be. >> good morning. i am from san diego state
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university, international business to the. i question is for secretary vilsack. i live in a very rural county in california, producing more than $5.1 billion and agricultural. however, the poorest county in the state and one of the poorest in the whole nation. a 20% unemployment. how can we use the $5.1 billion we produce to help the community that is producing it? it is a very poor county. what can we do to allow these people to get more? >> there are several things. first of all, i think it is important for us to continue to expand market opportunities of the 5 billion becomes a 6 billion, become $7 billion. it goes back to the comments on productivity but also the ability to promote domestic and foreign market opportunities. if one of the benefits of the trade efforts, every dollar we
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invest in trade promotion generates about $35 in additional trade opportunities. we want to obviously continue that. secondly, it is important for us to look for ways in which we can expand markets by using products differently. specifically, whatever residue may result from the production of the product. virtually everyone has crop residue. biomass, trees. how do we convert those into far more viable commodities and ingredients. i think we are seeing a rapid explosion in american and agriculture in particular to see how we can use the resources more effectively for chemicals and polymers. i have seen a factory where a corn cob was converted to a plastic bottle. i have been too deep into the laboratory in wisconsin where they are taking nanotechnology and converting -- which will be
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stronger and safer to -- safer use than the current armor for the military and police force. there are amazing opportunities here. there has to be a commitment to the community. we have a thing called strike force where we are focusing on core areas in the country. the persistently poor areas and the country. taking our teams there and making sure all the resources and partnerships the senator talked about are being utilized. we find oftentimes in those areas,folks are discouraged with government because they have not seen the help and assistance. with a strike force, we are beginning to develop new markets and to support and strengthen some communities. the president has proposed a and -- in his ladders of opportunity effort -- real focus on providing intensive care to these communities that have
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high unemployment and persistent poverty. we started that with a strike force and we will see more of that. >> i know these brilliant questions from the young people have intimidate you all, but i have time for two more questions. the microphone is coming your way. >> my name is justin taylor. i met secretary vilsack in vietnam. when i used to be ag attache. after the past few years it seems the nation has been involved in a debate about health care. i am struck by the way that we as an agricultural community have not been a part of that conversation on a national level about the relationship between the diet and health care in the united states. i would like to hear from the leaders of the agricultural community -- how can we be better engaged in that conversation?
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what can we do going forward to move that conversation in our direction? >> the has been a concerted effort at usda on this issue. perhaps it has not been couched in quite the same way but there is a deep concern about the health of the nation. it is one of the reasons why we put our my plate initiative to simplify what the the plate looks like. -- what a healthy plate looks like. other half protein and so forth. we have tried to re-formulate the school lunch program to provide more in gary and whole grains and less fat and sodium and sugar. we improved tie wic -- the wic program for more healthful choices. we have used our snap education
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efforts to educate those on the food stamp program how they might be able to stretch their dollars a little bit better purchasing fruits and vegetables. we have done a study suggesting they are not as expensive as some people think they are. we have expanded opportunities to use snap cards at farmers' markets. so folks have access to fresh fruits and vegetables. we are looking at several other and as this to enhance on that -- several other initiatives to enhance on that. that has been all couched in terms of school lunch and breakfast program,also dealing with the obesity and hunger issue. there are twin evils. too many of our youngsters are suffering from either one of those and they do not perform as well in school. they have chronic diseases that they take into adulthood which obviously and he's their quality -- impedes their quality of life and increases health care costs. we have a super tracker program
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-- that over a million are currently using -- that provides information on how to make healthy life choices. it is on our web site. i get an e-mail from them once every couple of weeks, asking whether i am doing what i said was going to do -- more fruits and vegetables. a think you will see a bit more promotion of that in the upcoming months as march is school nutrition month. that is an opportunity for us to emphasize this. the last thing i would say is we have seen a dramatic increase in community gardens in school gardens. i often comment that i appreciate the first lady get a lot of attention on her garden. we now have 1800 people's gardens throughout the united states and these are usda sponsored efforts. working with keep america beautiful. as a result, we have donated
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nearly 3 million pounds a produce to food kitchens and banks. she gets a lot of attention for her one, but i guess since she is first lady, she should. we do have 1,800 complement regards. >> -- complimentary gardens. >> first of all, i applaud the secretary's efforts. we have a long way to go. if this were a football field, we would be on the 20 yard line with 80 yards to go. we recognize -- we have to recognize a far more collectively and concerted way how much of a challenge we have in changing our health care system to a wellness' system. and that means far greater degree of attention to exercise as well as nutrition. attrition really has two components. a -- nutrition really has two components. combination of food we eat, the
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food plate depicts, but also a factor of our portions. i wore portions are so much bigger. we have to begin to address that part of it as well. the caloric intake for children has led to a situation where life expectancy is actually going down in the country. we can turn that around. but it is going to take a lot more education and a concerted effort around nutrition and taking personal responsibility for one's health. in a well list system rather than a health system. -- wellness system. >> the honor of the last question. oh, wait, i will go way over there. >> my name is james, from fresno, california. this question is for the entire panel. it actually tees off of the questions of health care and food waste.
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has the usda had any discussion recently about introducing some higher food grades in various products? when you look at cheese, we talk about the 40-pound block cheddar or when we look at cotton, there is only a certain number of grades, but when you see how, and is grown or cheese is made or the various items of produce are grown, there are ways to grow the produce and the various commodities that are greater -- that get better quality than the grade a standards. any discussions on that? that way, we could be selling products and incentivizing growers to grow a premium product that would go and be sold as a fresh product as opposed to just being blended in an average basis to the
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processing market? >> i guess i will take a crack at that sense i gained 15 minutes of fame sunday is ago when there was the ag marketing service administrator -- we changed the grades of swiss cheese. i was a cnn sensation. everybody making fun of me because we were changing the size of the eyes of the cheese, the highest standard. it became of the story of a government run amok. anyhow, it was very important because it helped with the slicing machines and it helped the swiss cheese industry. i am still proud of that one. anyway, these grade standards are things we work in collaboration with the industry. we are always anxious for industries to come up with innovations in the standards that will help oversee. that is a partnership, one of 's, we areschle's p always work a lot. >> i would just add that in
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order for partnerships to work, there has to be a constructive conversation. unfortunately, all too often, folks will be encouraging conflict instead of collaboration. and so, yesterday i had a great conversation with leaders in the organic world who were basically making the case that organics are different than general commodities. and because they are different, the systems that we have at usda where we tried to apply to insurance, for example, or regulatory systems, may not recognize the uniqueness of organics, and we really need to be thinking differently and creating different structures and systems. it was a very constructive conversation because folks came to the table with -- this is a problem for us, and we are not
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complaining about it but pointing out this is a problem, and we would like you all to think about it. that is a very constructive way to approach a problem. we need more of that type of discussion in all aspects rather than this feeling that somehow the government is the enemy. it is not. it is a facilitator, it is a helper, it is and assister. usda, four missionaries all lend themselves -- mission areas all lend themselves to greater cooperation. although we have not had discussions about grading, there is a growing recognition that the diversity of agriculture should be celebrated and not something to be worried about an systems need to be put in place to promote the diversity because, if you will create more economic activity -- opportunity, which would encourage people to be more excited about all areas of
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agriculture, which would lead to more young people getting involved in agriculture. >> ladies and gentlemen, we have coffee in the foyer. please thank our wonderful panelists this morning. [applause] [captioning performed by national captioning institute] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2013] >> on c-span today, "washington journal" is next, live with your phone calls. followed by the brookings institution with a report on the defense budget. later, live coverage of japanese ,rime minister shin zo abe speaking in washington. and in about 45 minutes, the brady center to prevent gun violence. then foreign-policy